Reservist saves woman from suicide attempt
March 13, 2009
HONOLULU - Today he is called "Spidey." Some even call him "Indiana Jones."
These are new titles for David Yamamoto, a Honolulu police sergeant and an Army Reserve command sergeant major, after he leapt from the fourth floor of a five-story Waikiki parking structure to save a woman attempting suicide in September 2008.
"I responded to a call that a lady was trying to jump off a building," said Yamamoto, who was on duty with the Honolulu Police Department. Three other officers were at the scene with the woman when he arrived.
"The woman was standing on the outer side of the railing," he said. "She was leaning back and hanging onto the rail. I began to talk to her about everything. I was trying to make a connection with her. I asked her if she remembered helping me with my son."
Yamamoto said the woman had never helped him with his son, but this is a technique he uses to assess mental soundness. She said she remembered helping him with his son.
At that point, he knew she was not thinking straight. He told her he wanted to get closer to give her a hug and properly thank her for her help. Then, emergency vehicle sirens sounded, and she began freaking out, he said.
Yamamoto recalled her last words before she let go of the railing and fell.
"Forgive me, Lord, of all my sins," she said. "Now I am going to rest forever. Three, two, two-and-a-half ..."
According to witnesses, it was like a scene from a movie. Yamamoto jumped right after her, grabbed her shirt, and swung her into the third floor parking garage. Other officers hung onto Yamamoto's vest.
Yamamoto said the woman, 47, was about 200 pounds and much taller than him. He stands 5 feet 5 inches and weighs about 150 pounds.
After saving her, he looked down from the fourth floor and saw her trying to jump over the third floor railing.
"I was like, oh no, you're not going to do this again," Yamamoto said.
He then jumped over the fourth floor railing, holding on with his hands, and kicked the woman back. Then, he swung down and jumped onto the third floor to restrain her.
Yamamoto marveled at how quickly the scenario played out. He said his more than 24 years of Army training, including obstacle courses and MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) training, probably had a lot to do with him being able to maneuver and save the woman.
Yamamoto currently serves as a command sergeant major in the 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, 9th Mission Support Command, at Fort Shafter. He joined the active Army in 1984 as an infantryman, and then joined the Army Reserve in 1988.
Before the woman was taken to the Queen's Medical Center for evaluation, Yamamoto remembered whispering to her, "I got my hug."
The Honolulu Police Department awarded Yamamoto the Bronze Medal of Valor in December 2008.
Due to privacy laws, Yamamoto was sure he would never be able to find out if the woman was OK, but while at the scene of another incident during Christmas, he saw her.
"It was just nice to see that she was doing better," he said. "It was kind of like a good Christmas present. I guess that was God's way of giving me a little 'hi' sign for Christmas."